Retaining a Sample of Homeless Youth.
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Objective: Hard to reach populations need to be included in research studies to ensure proper representation of the general population. This paper explores tracking strategies used in the Youth Matters in London project to retain a sample of homeless youth. Method: A total of 187 youth, aged between 16 and 24 years, homeless or precariously housed, and experiencing a serious mental health issue were recruited at a community drop-in center, by word of mouth and by snowball sampling. After the initial interview, three repeat interviews were conducted six months apart. Results: The most successful strategy for contacting participants was through a local agency and e-mail. An analysis of the contact data identified participant retention rates as 88%, 86%, and 82% for each successive interview. This longitudinal retention rate is very high compared with research in other vulnerable populations, suggesting a strong willingness to participate in the Youth Matters in London project. Conclusions: Retaining a sample of homeless youth is difficult, however, with time, patience and effort it has proven possible. This research underscores the importance of relationships with community agencies to retain vulnerable youth samples in longitudinal research designs.
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